What proportion of the emoji on your keyboard do you actually use? Chances are, you've never used the "aerial tramway" or the input symbol for Latin capital letters, and you probably didn't realise there was a passport control emoji. Suffice to say that Unicode, the body that decides which emoji appear on our keyboard, has created a great deal of pointless symbols.
But while there appears to be little (if any) demand for these emoji, one highly sought-after symbol has been completely overlooked: the transgender flag. The pink, blue and white Transgender Pride flag, created by American trans activist and author Monica Helms in 1999, was one of the most-requested emoji of last year (and the previous year), so it was only a matter of time before someone started a dedicated campaign for one.
Enter: Charlie Craggs. The trans activist, author and founder of Nail Transphobia (and Nail It) is spearheading a new campaign, Claws Out For Trans, alongside brand strategy consultancy Revolt, calling out Unicode for introducing a lobster emoji this year while long overlooking the transgender flag.
In protest, Craggs is calling on people to sign her petition and to use the lobster emoji as the unofficial transgender emoji until the flag is introduced. Not only does the use of the lobster highlight the random way emoji get chosen; by happy coincidence, it turns out the crustaceans are gynandromorphs, meaning they have both male and female characteristics.
"So until we get our flag we’re hijacking the lobster. Making it the unofficial, official trans symbol," the group says, "to show how much a real trans symbol would be used."
Images and symbols matter – a fact that Unicode seems to acknowledge, given that it has dramatically increased the diversity of demographics represented on our keyboards in recent years with a broader range of skin tones, hair colours and a more progressive presentation of gender – so it's about time the trans community saw themselves represented too.
"Emoji play such an important role in the way we communicate today," a Nail It spokesperson told Refinery29 UK. "Having representation in this platform is vital to give representation to a community that has previously struggled to have its voice heard. A trans flag emoji would bring the transgender community into the conversation, which can only have a positive impact on people’s understanding and attitudes."
Craggs told us that flags, unlike soup cans, toboggans and many of the other emoji Unicode has approved, "represent community and are a way to express your identity, connect with others who share that identity and feel part of a community." She continued: "It's super important for people to feel represented and included."
As the Change.org petition text reads: "Emojis are a way for the world to connect, and trans people shouldn’t be left out of the conversation. Unicode granted the Lobster emoji proposal, which argued that people suffered ‘frustration and confusion’ at having to use a shrimp or crab emoji instead of a lobster. Imagine if that was your gender.
"Surely we deserve the same rights you have afforded crustaceans? Especially as a community so often faced with violence and discrimination. Please give our trans mothers, brothers, fathers, sisters and friends the love they deserve."